Live. Laugh. Lock Load and Gun Shirt

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Live. Laugh. Lock Load and Gun Shirt

It was the ascendancy of shops like Brooks Brothers, J Press and Gant after the Second World War that started to put a stamp on the American shirt – as the Ivy style that had previously been so niche began to spread to the rest of the country. We have Brooks Brothers to thank for the button-down collar, for example – although Gant also did much to popularise it, as the first to introduce ready-made versions at Yale. Gant later gave us the locker loop, while Brooks claims the breast pocket (though it periodically dropped it) and the unlined collar. J Press meanwhile, which often took an alternative approach to Ivy, gave us the flapped pocket version. “Which was Christian has written on Ivy style since his site started in 2008, and was one of the people I spoke to for this piece. “Think of the OCBD as one part of a Venn diagram, with the other half the more straight-collar style worn in the rest of the country,” he says. “Over time, the overlap between those two grew, as the button-down shirt became increasingly popular.”Fellow writer Bruce Boyer has a nice term for that other, standard-collar style – the ‘mid-western grain salesman’ look. “A very plain style, basically,” says Christian. “Two-button jacket, darted but boxy. What you saw mostly in Hollywood, and epitomised by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Nondescript.”

Live. Laugh. Lock Load and Gun Shirt3

Live. Laugh. Lock Load and Gun Shirt3

Live. Laugh. Lock Load and Gun Shirt4

Live. Laugh. Lock Load and Gun Shirt4

Live. Laugh. Lock Load and Gun Shirt

As mentioned, one thing that drove the OCBD’s increasing popularity was aspiration – something nicely captured in Mary McCarthy’s 1942 story, The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt, where the titular shirt is a sign of status for Mr Breen, a steel salesman from Cleveland. But later the Ivy look seeped into the broader consciousness just because it was fashionable – during its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. “Part of the Ivy League story is that many adopted it without knowing its origins – not because it was something they were born into, or were coming into by going to college,” says Christian. “It just became part of the American style.” And arguably, it was the first men’s clothing tradition that America could really call its own. Ivy suffered a decline in the late 1960s, as fashions do. But it came back with a vengeance in the 1980s, as prep spread similar looks across the country. And then there was the modern revival from 2010 onwards, which had much to do with the growth of menswear as a whole, but was helped by the republication of Take Ivy, an exhibition at FIT, and the growth of interest in heritage brands.

Live. Laugh. Lock Load and Gun Shirt1

Live. Laugh. Lock Load and Gun Shirt1

Live. Laugh. Lock Load and Gun Shirt

Live. Laugh. Lock Load and Gun Shirt